If one of your wishes Sunday was to see Couch pass for 400+, or William Green see the light of blessed holes and rush for 100+, or the defensive line rack up 7 sacks, you'd have gotten an "Amen." But if you wished that Tommy Maddox would see action because Kordell Stewart reverted to form, I'd have screamed "No, take it back! Noooohhhh!!"
Was it 20/20 hindsight on my part? Nope, I've been running through the streets like a desperate man with warnings few understand, much like Kevin McCarthy splashed on the windshield of Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams' car in the sequel to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
Go back in the archives a now-locked thread entitled "I Hope Our Defense…" There was some gloating over Stewart's dreadful MNF debut against the Patriots. In my post, "My Kingdom for Analysis," I write…
"If it's a big game, or hyped as one, Kordell tightens up. It's too bad because it will prematurely fan the flames. We really want Kordell to do okay until he gets to us. But by virtue of his looking bad from day one, that will just pour gasoline on the fire of fan resentment and pressure for Cowher to make a change…
… The best thing that can happen for the Steelers is for Kordell to play badly enough for them to force a change sooner than later. As long as he's behind center, the Steelers can, at best, be okay, but never get over the hump."
Later in this thread, in another post entitled "Then Bring Something to the Table…" I add…
And that's where Kordell comes in. Don't be rooting for his demise just yet because the sooner they come to terms with the problem, the sooner they get better…
… What's going on now with Kordell is similar to what the Steelers faced over a decade ago with Bubby Brister. The guy had some encouraging games early, and his drawl made their fans nostalgic for Bradshaw. So they played him, and he looked good one week and bad the next.
Noll stuck with him long past his expiration date, and fans were growing restless. Then when he finally took him out and inserted Neil O'Donnell (I was at that MNF game against the Giants), it was like a breath of fresh air. O'Donnell led a furious rally to tie, but it ended on a Giants field goal. Still, the fans came away encouraged. They finally got that Bubby off their back.
O'Donnell wasn't a HOFer, but he did take them to a SB one year, and the team missed the SB the year before in a game against the Chargers that was very similar to the Pats game last year.
So the point again is that we shouldn't be gloating over Kordell's failures. If you know he's bad, doesn't it stand to reason that you want him to continue? He's just the 2000 version of Bubby Brister, and if he goes, the Steelers get better.
Understand the Steelers' mindset: when it has something successful going, it stays with it. And when that success turns sour, they stay with it. And when that success turns sour and is now big putrid chunks glopping into the sink, they start to think "Hmmm, should we make a cha-- Nahhhh, stay with it."
Let me elaborate on that MNF game and how it was déjà vu all over again.
The Steelers had Bubby Brister at the helm. He had broken in a few years earlier with a Cajun bravura that reminded Steeler fans of Bradshaw. Bubby eventually became a starter, and had a more than respectable year in ‘90 with 20 td passes and only 14 interceptions. But the next year he started blowing chunks, and the call went out from fans to replace him, just as they had a few years earlier for Mark Malone. Chuck Noll, in his final year as head coach, and the man who kept Mark Malone employed well past any discernable usefulness, stubbornly kept Brister as his starter.
And then came the Monday Night game.
The Giants slowly built their lead as the Steelers offense couldn't do anything. Receivers would go left and Brister would throw right. The ball goes skidding by no one in particular as boos greet a departing offense. At one point in the second half, it was 20-3. Finally, Noll said to hell with it and put in the
Any loss is tough to take, but afterwards the Steeler fans seemed upbeat and encouraged because there was hope in the form of a new quarterback. On the way out, I told Earl that we may have witnessed a watershed game for the Steelers.
We did. O'Donnell didn't lose his grip on the starter's job. While he wasn't a world-beater, he became known as a quarterback who didn't make mistakes and-- as Brister had ably demonstrated—make really dumb mistakes. It was as if Noll finally had the excuse to admit change was long overdue. O'Donnell was good enough to take the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
In my opinion, Bill Cowher has been one of the better NFL coaches over the years. He has been able to field winning teams despite numerous free agent defections. But he has a blind spot: Kordell Stewart. He has stuck with Kordell through thick and thin—was downright stubborn about keeping him as a starter, just as Chuck Noll was stubborn about playing Malone and Brister long after the fans had their fill of them. And sometimes Brister could feel vindicated when Stewart looked great.
But I wanted Stewart to play because even when he excelled, even when he went to the Pro Bowl last year, those that knew him knew he would go sour as soon as the heat was on. When the Steelers would need a drive to tie it—be it against the Patriots in the AFC title game last year or against the Browns Sunday, Stewart would sink to the occasion.
So when I saw Maddox warming up on the sidelines, I knew there was nowhere for the Steelers to go but up. Maddox might not be the next Tom Brady, but he's also no Kordell Stewart, and that was bad news for us. Maddox came off the bench like O'Donnell nearly 11 years ago and gave the Steelers a badly needed shot in the arm (the difference was that with to go and the ball at our 40 yard line, we were not Jeff Hostetler and the Giants. Taking it 30- 40 yards in that time was cake for them). Cowher has now been given the excuse to admit that change has been long overdue. He can no longer be in denial about Stewart when a hero came off the bench to save his heinie.
And if a dirty disheveled Kevin McCarthy lands on your windshield raving through the glass about pods or wishes we don't need, pay attention, then put your foot on the gas and get the hell out of town.